The Way Out is In

I’m not sure our lives get made any better by expansion and ‘progress’. Everything us humans touch seems to get spoiled and adulterated. It seems like we’ve lost our way. The world is angry and fearful. There is too much information streaming through our brains all the time. It’s too much to process. A steady stream of stress is not good for our well being. And it shows in every horrific crime that takes place. It shows in the subtle divisiveness between neighbors, too.

Emerson wrote:

“Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is Christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but the change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts….the civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet…

” He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. The solstice he does not observe, the equinox he knows as little…and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, …entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue.”

Karl Marx wrote that: Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people

If religion is the opiate of the masses; a quelling of symptoms of suffering, then compassion is the true cure. Compassion is the key. It is available to us all, no matter our beliefs. Maybe it doesn’t believe in rules or always obey laws, but compassion always comes from the heart. I believe we find what is there by being quiet, contemplating, and looking within….

I think prayer is when we tell God what we want while meditation is when we allow our mind to become quiet so that the Universe can tell us what it wants. Meditation allows us to connect to the thing that connects us all to everything else in the Universe.

Henry Miller describes a little about the quiet mind via the main character in Colossus of Maroussi in a way that strongly resonates with my beliefs about tuning out and tuning in. Here is a brief excerpt:

“I was like Robinson Crusoe on the island of Tobago. For hours at a stretch I would lie in the sun doing nothing, thinking of nothing. To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too.

“To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself. 

“The book-learning gradually dribbles away; problems melt and dissolve; ties are gently severed; thinking, when you deign to indulge in it, becomes very primitive; the body becomes a new and wonderful instrument; you look at plants or stones or fish with different eyes;

“…you wonder what people are struggling to accomplish with their frenzied activities; you know there is a war on but you haven’t the faintest idea what it’s about or why people should enjoy killing one another; you look at a place like Albania—it was constantly staring me in the eyes—and you say to yourself, yesterday it was Greek, to-day it’s Italian, to-morrow it may be German or Japanese, and you let it be anything it chooses to be. When you’re right with yourself it doesn’t matter which flag is flying over your head or who owns what or whether you speak English or Monongahela. 

“The absence of newspapers, the absence of news about what men are doing in different parts of the world to make life more livable or unlivable is the greatest single boon. If we could all go on strike and honestly disavow all interest in what our neighbor is doing we might get a new lease on life. We might learn to do without telephones and radios and newspapers, without machines of any kind, without factories, without mills, without mines, without explosives, without battleships, without politicians, without lawyers, without canned goods, without gadgets, without razor blades even or cellophane or cigarettes or money.

“This is a pipe dream, I know.”  

It’s terribly sad to me that we don’t pay more attention to the things right in front of us. There is magic and medicine happening in the small quiet moments.  If we are focused on what’s happening a million miles away, we might miss the magic in our own back yard.

Go for a walk, sit on a porch, stare at the clouds, listen to the rain, stare into a puddle. Get quiet. Breathe. The rest will fall into place. The way out is in.

P.S.  (there is nothing out here….nothing out here….nothing out here).

 

El Corazon

“Let your heart be silently drawn to the pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

-Rumi

small bee on sunflower

I went to bed on the fence last night. Not knowing what I would do. I weighed the inner dialog of “I should do this, or maybe I should do that, “ and “I don’t feel like doing that, so maybe I’ll do this instead.”

And this morning I started doing one thing, but felt an inner tug start to pull me in another direction. My heart wanted to go one way and my brain was trying to drag me another…

spider web dew

Our hearts are intuitive. It’s in our hearts where we feel compassion, love, joy, sadness, etc. Centered emotions are like compasses, I believe, pointing us in the direction in which we should go.

Compassion. Compass. Got it?

Our brains are like CPUs of computers or command centers. It’s the place where learning takes place and from where logical, patterned, regimented, repetitive, reactive behaviors come from. It’s sort of an ‘auto-pilot’.

Gulf Fritillary on Zinnia Flower

Both have their place, of course. The brain seems to be dutiful in keeping us alive at whatever cost. The heart seems to be concerned with the quality of life. I would consider the brain to be the masculine part of ourselves, while the heart is the feminine part.

web closeup

In instances of interpersonal communication and in conducting our day to day lives, it is so important that we respond instead of react. Brain reactions are automatic. They allow us to act in a situation where we don’t have to think. It does this by being trained. The brain is in charge of programmed behavior that is based on previous similar situations. For example, if you step on a bee once, the next time you see a bee, you might run or be afraid or want to kill it, even if it is just perched on a flower, eating. Your body may even have a physiological reaction. The brain based reaction to the bee is to be afraid of it. The heart based response to seeing the bee might be to be cautious, but to leave the bee alone since it is just going about its business not doing any harm. Bees, spiders, snakes…They are all just going about their lives doing their thing just like we are and ultimately aren’t out to do us harm.

What if we apply this theory to our everyday interactions with other things and other people? Are we going about it all the right way presently or could we perhaps approach the world with a little more love and compassion?

small bee in touch-me-not flower

The brain can be unknowingly influenced by events, images, words, sounds, and sensations. It can be duped, fooled, and ultimately brainwashed in varying degrees.  It seems to be the driving force that compels us to get up, work hard, compete, sleep, and repeat. Our heart is a sort of lie detector, however, capable of discerning the truth. We all know when our hearts feel full and happy, but it also lets us know when something is lacking or that there is something that doesn’t ‘feel’ right about a situation. The heart might encourage us to slow down and be in the moment for a bit and to take in our surroundings.

Swallowtail butterfly

I think the heart is the part of us that indicates where we might need to change our patterns of thought and behavior. I think the heart has the power to lead us to the kindest, gentlest, least destructive outcome of a situation. The heart is more thoughtful than the brain (although that sounds odd to say). The heart is the seat of compassion.

red rooster in garden

Compassion. Compass. Got it!

So, in the quietness of this morning where I decide to do one thing instead of another, I discovered all sorts of magical things outside in the clear, cool morning. Spider webs heavily beaded with dew.

small spider in web

Okra blossoms unfurling. Bees gathering nectar and pollen. I found my center and I was inspired by what I felt in my heart to write this post. I found a calm flow that set the tone for my entire day.

okra bud, flower, seed pod

I was grateful that I had let my heart guide me to the choice I ultimately made. It wasn’t necessarily the most logical decision by some standards, but it’s the one that felt right for me. It’s what my heart wanted…

spider web from above

If you are interested in learning more about the heart and all its magic, check out the HeartMath Institute to learn more about a heart centered way of being. There are all kinds of tools for managing stress, emotions, etc.

Be well and keep being awesome!

Keep Where You are Feeling Fine

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about. -Rumi

There is a whirlwind in my head this time of year. My brain is addled. Christmas, for me, isn’t the joyous occasion it is for a lot of people. I feel overwhelmed by the busyness, the commercialism, the consumerism. I participate as little as possible in the madness (I’ve written previously about it here). It’s not that I’m a Scrooge, but it’s kind of the opposite. I feel bombarded with chaotic meaninglessness. I want only one tiny genuine experience, instead of myriad obligations and expectations. I like gift giving, but it often seems forced instead of true. I’d rather they were given and received sporadically and unexpectedly at all times of the year. I like visiting with people, but not everyone all at once.

I choose to celebrate instead, Winter Solstice. And life – the return of the sun and longer days. I celebrate nature. Winter Solstice was the most important day for ancient cultures. It is nature, after all that sustains our existence. I collect and display evergreen branches if nothing else, to remind me that though the natural world appears to have succumbed to the death of winter, it is not dead. It is resting and recharging for another season of vibrant aliveness. I try to let that be what happens to me, too, during this season. I seek out rest and quiet time, read, walk the dog, exercise, and meditate. And I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, baking and cooking for the few gatherings I do enjoy attending.

(The kale and pomegranate salad I whipped up was delicious and was an unexpected hit. It was basically this recipe, but without the chili powder).

kale pom salad small

This year with the super warm temperatures, I spent a lot of time hanging out with the cats on the porch, listening to the birds singing, playing my banjo, and visiting the ever entertaining circus in the backyard that consists of three goats and four chickens.

curfuffle small
cat yoga
cobweb small

 

I used to wonder why it was difficult participate in the season just like everyone else until I recently discovered that there is a good possibility that I am a ‘highly sensitive person’. Many of the characteristics seem to fit. That, coupled with the fact that I am an introvert, makes a pretty convincing explanation. I just can’t handle too much of it…Whatever IT is…people, small talk, sparkle, etc. When my senses become overloaded, I have to retreat and repair. At Christmastime, IT is amplified even more than at other times during the year.I constantly replay a clip from the Abonimable Snowman Looney Tunes cartoon over and over in my head in which Daffy Duck says, “I’m not like other people. I can’t stand pain. It hurts me.” For so long, I thought I was a simply a weakling. Knowing there is a viable explanation to why I can’t handle a lot of activity helps so much, because now I can learn to manage this issue and use it as a creative tool which I hope to hone and use constructively. And, instead of feeling guilty that I can’t manage all activity, I will now give myself permission to opt out when necessary in order to recharge and stay centered.

I always look forward to the new year, however, when everything quietens down and the world seems to start fresh and new. The air seems filled and charged with new possibilities, challenges, and growth. It is often a time to reflect back on the previous year as well as a time make lists of things we want to change or accomplish.

I don’t have a list of resolutions made up just yet. I’m just happy I made it through 2015. I’m healthy and well and hope you are, too.

I offer gratitude to the universe for all my gifts, blessings, and for the people who are helping me get to wherever it is I need to go. I wish for us all to have peaceful hearts…

Happy New Year!

P.S. Here’s a seasonal playlist for you to enjoy…At least listen to the first one.

In the Middle

I feel caught in the middle of two bickering parents on the verge of a nasty divorce. I feel like I’m being tugged this way and that, pulled into the drama of each side. What do I think? I don’t really know. Sometimes I don’t know if I have enough information to make a well informed decision. I don’t think anyone else has all the answers either. I believe there is a lot of gray in the world and
not a lot of easily distinguishable black or white. All of us are capable of meanness and kindness and have moments of each. But, we always have a choice of how we respond to situations.

There are several versions of the following quote. This one is attributed to Sitting Bull: Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.”

So, please, stop feeding the evil dog inside. Just stop it. Take a good long deep breath and throw the good dog a bone.

Our current social issues have us passionately advocating for this or that side, but in such a way as it causes division, disharmony, violence, and hatred among neighbors, coworkers, family members, and even complete strangers. Can we not disagree without disowning each other? Can we not have differing opinions without becoming enemies?

Are you pro choice or pro life? Are you anti gun or pro gun? Are you a Christian or a Muslim? Are you black or white? Gay or straight? I don’t care. I love you both.

See, I don’t care if you go to church or don’t. I don’t care if you cuss or don’t. I don’t care if you drink or don’t. I don’t care if you clean your house or not. I don’t care if your furniture matches, if your car is nice, if your house is fancy, or even if you mow your yard. I care about whether you gossip about people, or judge them, or think you are better than someone else. I care about whether you are genuinely kind to people, if you help them out every once in a while. I care about how you care for your animals. I care about if you are stressed and anxious. I care about whether you are hopeful or not. I care if your heart is full of hate or love. I care about your thoughts. I want them to be good and positive, because they are filtering out into my world and my surroundings. Yours, mine, and everyone else’s thoughts collectively create the world that surrounds us.

Whatever you focus on gains power over you. Choose to focus on hate and fear and you will stay aggressively tensed up in a chaotic world; choose love and you will live in peace. It is up to you. When you tweet, post, comment, or share something, is it intended to stir up the drama even more? Is it a message of love or fear?

I recommend you choose love. Choose kindness. You don’t have to go to hateful means to prove your point. We don’t all have to agree; we don’t even have to be friends. We just need to be mindful to not fan the flames of contempt and hatred. Figure out how to feel peace in your heart. Unplug. Go outside; take a walk…focus on the beauty of the world. Do it now!

Do it for the kids. Do it for the world.

 

(…You’re a catalyst to your own, happiness you know…

…You’re the decider of the world you’ll get to know

Cause it’s your heart, it’s alive
It’s pumping blood)

 

This is How it Works

This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t

You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood

And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again”

-Regina Spektor, On the Radio

Shameless Self Promotion

I’m not a great self promoter, I will admit. I’m not always comfortable shouting to the world, “Look what I did!” However, in order to profit from business endeavors, I guess it’s important to get the word out about the various kinds of work I do.

So, here is something I do:  I’ve had an Etsy shop, The Meanest Flower Vintage, previously called “Quite Right, Slick”, since 2008 where I sell all kinds of awesome vintage things I find at estate sales, auctions, flea markets, etc. I love finding these items, photographing them looking their best, and sending them out to be appreciated by someone else. If I didn’t have this shop, I would surely be a hoarder.

TMF copy

Another thing I do is design logos, business cards, banners, etc. I’ve done product photography and have set up and created marketing materials for these other Etsy shops:  Old Soul Woodworks, and Tree Built.

Old Soul Woodworks, owned and operated by Claude and Delaine Daoust, makes rustic storage cabinets and hanging file / book holders in all kinds of colorful finishes…

Tree Built is run by Jacob Tittle, Chairmaker. He makes beautiful carved utensils and whole chairs out of trees:

I’m telling you all this to (a) let you know that I have cool stuff for sale and, (b) these other talented people have cool stuff for sale and, (c) that if you also have stuff for sale, I might be able to help your business and products look their best, too. Please contact me if you are interested.

I’ve been doing other things, too. I’ll share them with you soon!

 

 

Underneath the Mess…

“What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can opener in his hand, wondering where to begin– to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.”

-Henry Miller

The caterpillar of a red spotted purple butterfly looks quite like a piece of bird poop, and out of that comes a splendidly regal being adorned with wings of brightly colored jewels and redeeming decorum. So, if you are ever feeling shitty…

The transformation might be tough, but you have the power inside yourself to turn your world into something beautiful.

As I post this, I’m feeling real shitty about our world and our planet. I think we get all up in a tizzy about honest to goodness bullshit (bullshit=things that don’t matter), while more important things go on all around us that we fail to pay attention to. Isn’t there something more important we could put our energy into?

What could you turn into if you put more energy toward it? What kind of marvelousness is underneath your mess?

What kind of world could exist if we actively put effort toward changing it? I’m telling you that any goodness you inject into the cosmos makes a difference. This is not bullshit. Good or bad, it all matters. Our thoughts and actions directly effect our inner marvelousness as well as the outer universal marvelousness. We must choose our thoughts and actions wisely. How we decide to act or react to any situation is a choice. We can make it ugly or beautiful…Every moment is another chance to get it right.

My suggested solution to getting to the marvelousness underneath the mess and actively creating a better world to live in is this: Don’t be a piece of poop. Be a beautiful butterfly!

Run Wild

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…
…I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other…
…I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

For a while, I’ve had it in mind to write a post about just being yourself. In an environment of sweeping mass culture, it is increasingly difficult to even ‘know’ yourself, let alone ‘be’ yourself. We are constantly being told what to think, what’s beautiful, how to dress, how to style our hair, how to decorate our homes, etc. and what we end up with is essentially a world full of sameness. Because we want to fit in, our individual beauty, talents, and creativity often get hidden away and denied because they don’t ‘fit’ into the cookie cutter world of accepted conformity. We end up feeling inadequate because we don’t measure up to the status quo.  Authenticity and being comfortable in your own skin, however, is the very best sort of style. Do what you do best, and you will add value to a world that desperately needs it. Embrace what makes you different than everyone else on the planet!

This is a rather abstract post, but I’ve compiled a few examples of this conformity “theme” where others have said it best to illustrate my thoughts on the matter. But first, a short personal story of triumph over conformity…

I’ve had thick, unruly, frizzy, curly hair most of my life. I’ve kept it pulled it back, tied it up, pinned it down, wanted to pull it out, wished I had straight hair, etc… I’ve been so frustrated at times by the fact that my hair had a mind of its own, until, I cut it and let it just let it do its thing! I’ve learned to accept (and maybe even love) my big wild hair and I have set it free. It’s still unruly, but I’ve come to realize that’s what makes it unique. I honestly feel more comfortable in my own skin, because I’ve stopped trying to change and control a fundamental part of what makes me, well, ME!

This lesson about hair of course is a trivial example, but it has taught me that it’s quite freeing to just let things ‘be’ sometimes. It’s a lesson I intend to apply to lots of areas of my life.

Jim Morrison said, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”

So, you there…Pay attention to what seeks to cage you in. Escape its bonds, go run wild, and let your freak flag fly!


The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous. The language of society is conformity; the language of the creative individual is freedom. Life will continue to be a hell as long as people who make up the world shut their eyes to reality.” -Henry Miller


 The Poet Dreams of the Classroom by Mary Oliver

I dreamed
I stood up in class
And I said aloud:

Teacher,
Why is algebra important?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed
I stood up
And I said:

Teacher, I’m weary of the turkeys
That we have to draw every fall.
May I draw a fox instead?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed
I stood up once more and said:

Teacher,
My heart is falling asleep
And it wants to wake up.
It needs to be outside.

Sit down, he said.”


 “Get out your measuring cups and we’ll play a new game
Come to the front of the class and we’ll measure your brain
We’ll give you a complex and we’ll give it a name….

….Put your backpack on your shoulder
Be the good little soldier
It’s no different when you’re older
You’re predisposed
That’s all for questions now
The case is closed!”


Be authentic to your dreams. Be authentic to your own idea about yourself. Grind away at your own minds and bodies until you become your own invention. Be Mad Scientists.” -Warren Ellis

Verne and Other Stuff, but Mostly Verne.

My poor neglected garden is still offering up tomatoes, peppers, a bit of chard, and a leek here and there. I’m thankful…getting ready to make goat cheese stuffed peppers with bacon for dinner.

I was sitting on the porch earlier this autumn afternoon, slurping a custard-y sweet pawpaw out of my hand like a savage and enjoying it immensley.

pawpaw small

A homeless kitty found my yard on Tuesday. Ohmygosh, she’s so cute I want to punch her in the face.

If you’d like to take her to your house, please let me know. I already named her “Verne” for you. You’re welcome.

Happy Fall. Playlist to surely follow one of these days.

I leave you with this:

“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”

-Mary Oliver

Summer Music

I’m not very consistent with this whole blogging thing yet, but I’m at least keeping up with my seasonal music playlists. Some notables from this summer’s soundtrack are: Bronze Radio Return’s Shake, Shake Shake, Jesse Woods’ Lazerburn, and Ben Howard’s dreamy Burgh Island. Have a listen and enjoy the rest of your summer, y’all!